Richmondshire patients able to book GP appointments in evenings and at weekends

Harewood Medical Practice in Catterick Garrison.

Richmondshire residents can now pre-book primary care appointments in the evening and on Saturday mornings.

The appointments are being offered at the Harewood Medical Practice site in Catterick Garrison as part of the Better Access programme .

Patients can book appointments at the clinics through their own practices in the usual way.

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As part of the scheme from NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group, more GP, pharmacist, physiotherapist, nurse and healthcare assistant appointments will be available meaning that people have better access to the specific service they need.

The aim is to make it easier for people who find it difficult to attend appointments during working hours to access services at a convenient time and place.

Commissioned by NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (the CCG), the Better Access programme has been developed and delivered by Heartbeat Alliance, a federation of GP practices across Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby.

It follows a series of public engagement events and campaigns in 2016, known as ‘Your Health Voice’, which gathered the views of almost 80,000 stakeholders, service users, carers, providers and the general public in a discussion about the future shape of access to general practice services. The results of the engagement showed an overall demand for these appointments outside of the usual hours.

The service is funded as part of an NHS England strategy to support and improve primary care services. The GP Forward View, published in April 2016, commits an extra £2.4 billion a year to support general practice services by 2020/21.

CCG Chief Officer Janet Probert said: “We are delighted with the collaboration between local services which has opened up extra appointments outside of core hours for our population.

“Following extensive engagement it became clear that access to weekday evening and Saturday morning appointments would be helpful to a wide range of people, enabling them to see a GP, nurse or physiotherapist much more conveniently.”

It is also hoped that the extra appointments will also reduce pressure on services over the winter period.

Janet Probert continues: “The local NHS has pulled out all the stops to prepare for this winter. Pressures have been building on A&E departments for several years and can increase significantly over winter because of a rise in the number of people attending hospital.

“We are determined to protect the high standards of service that the public have come to expect and this extension of access to routine services in practices, delivered locally by people our patients know, is an important element of our winter plan. We know that if people can get the right care at the right time, many can stay out of hospital.”